When Magic Eden decided to make it optional for NFT buyers to pay royalties, it created a firestorm of protests. The NFT marketplace, the largest on Solana, quickly announced it would host a hackathon aimed at developing new royalty-protecting tools and alternative monetization opportunities for creators. The hackathon, which kicked off this week, has a prize pool of $250,000.

The silver lining to Magic Eden making royalties optional, and the resulting debate over whether marketplaces should be enforcing something that can’t be enforced on the smart-contract level, is that it will lead to innovation that will spawn new blockchain-enabled business models for creators.

Royalties on sales were never the be-all, end-all business model. Our collective approach to how creators monetize their work and make a living in web3 is incredibly narrow compared to the endless opportunities enabled by blockchain technology.

NFTs aren’t the business model—they are a key that unlocks a multitude of business models.

This, by the way, is why we’re building Darkblock, which is an encryption protocol that enables creators to control the distribution, access to, and monetization of their multimedia content using NFTs with unlockable content. Our mission is to empower creators to harness the power of blockchain technology and develop a new creator economy free from platform control.

Magic Eden has asked the Darkblock team to lead a workshop on Nov. 9 as part of its Creator Monetization Hackathon, which we’re happy to do. We’re confident participants who build on the Darkblock Protocol will come up with some novel new monetization opportunities for creators.

To kickstart the ideation, here are four revenue models possible to develop using the Darkblock Protocol.

1. Content Subscriptions

With Darkblock, creators can encrypt and immutably attach an unlimited amount of multimedia content to their NFTs (even after they’re minted or sold). This turns NFTs into delivery channels for content and means creators can use the Darkblock Protocol to deliver new content to their audiences ad infinitum. See the possibilities?

A comic book creator could sell an NFT to her fans, then attach a new issue each month as unlockable content. An author could do the same with their ebook, or an animator with their weekly video series, or a model with daily NSFW content. The ability to turn on a subscription fee and create the web3 versions of Patreon, Substack or OnlyFans is entirely doable.

And because Darkblock makes integration into a website easy, these creators could give their holders an excuse to return to their website on a regular basis to connect their wallet, interact with the Darkblock Protocol to authenticate ownership of the NFT, then decrypt and consume the content without leaving.

2. Content Rental & Royalties on Consumption

One lever creators can pull when it comes to the access controls the Darkblock Protocol provides is giving NFT owners the ability to rent out the unlockable content. Making this possible turns a creator’s collectors into a distribution network for their content.

Here’s how it would work: Imagine a popular filmmaker releases a short film and attaches it to a collection of 2,000 NFTs, selling each for .2 ETH—at current ETH prices, a cool $628,000. Existing fans might not be able to afford the NFT, but they might be willing to pay .01 ETH (about $15) to watch the film (using the Darkblock TV app, of course). Or, maybe this filmmaker becomes super famous and the price of these 2,000 NFTs increases to 2 ETH while demand to view this short film also increases.

In either scenario, if the filmmaker gave holders the option to rent the film, holders would be able to rent it out and collect a rental fee. The holder would pocket a portion of the proceeds, a reward for their early support, while a pre-determined percentage would flow back to the filmmaker in the form of a royalty on consumption.

We envision this being done by creating special access NFTs with temporary darkblocks containing the rented content.

3. Asset Purchases & Upgrades

Another opportunity using the Darkblock Protocol is for creators to sell additional content or assets to existing NFT holders.

Let’s use game and metaverse assets for this example. Using Darkblock’s existing Unity plug-in, creators and developers can encrypt and attach game and metaverse assets to NFTs, which subsequent owners could upload to Unity-based games and metaverses at runtime.

Pretty cool. Let’s say someone buys an NFT that contains a special avatar for a specific metaverse. Later, the NFT’s owner wants to buy an upgrade and/or acquire some new wearables or metaverse fashion for the avatar. The original creator collects a small fee and attaches the additional darkblock to the existing NFT so the new asset is uploaded with the avatar at runtime.

You may ask why a creator would want to add content to an existing NFT rather than sell a new NFT. One answer is that they want value to accrue to their existing collectors. If a holder has invested over a long period of time in upgrades and extra stuff, then that NFT is chock-full of unlockable content and will fetch a higher price on the secondary market.

Here’s another possibility to get the juices flowing.

A creator-educator can use the Darkblock Protocol to attach course material to NFTs (e.g., lectures, worksheets, resources, etc.) and then provide them to each student.

That alone is a great use case. But maybe they want to sell add-ons—certain high-value templates or custom design files or even special links a student could use to redeem IRL items or schedule one-on-one coaching sessions. All of those things could be sold and then attached to that specific student’s NFT as unlockable content.

4. Gamified NFTs & Raffles

What if you want to introduce an element of gamification to your NFT project? Using Darkblock, you could.

You can use Darkblock to encrypt and attach any file type you want to an NFT—even an HTML file. So, we’ve been playing around with custom integrations that recreate the experience of redeeming a scratch-off ticket contained in a darkblock. Even to the point where your cursor becomes a little hand holding a coin…

Why would you want to do this? Maybe you want to hold a legit raffle for holders, who can buy as many raffle tickets as they want—each contained in their own darkblock—for 0.3 SOL each (about $10 at current prices). Using our NPM packages, a NFT project could integrate our protocol and the Darkblock Viewer into their website, where holders can then unlock their darkblocks and scratch off their tickets for a chance to win whatever prize you have in mind.

Going back to what’s possible with the Unity plug-in, maybe you’re a developer of a Unity-based dungeon-raiding RPG and you want to introduce some fun into a player’s experience when they find a chest or want to pay for a chance to win a special weapon or magical item. Rather than a basic reveal, the player receives a darkblock, which they can decrypt and then interact with to reveal what they’ve won.

Conclusion

These are just four ideas for monetization opportunities we believe could be built atop a protocol that gives creators control of the distribution, access to, and monetization of their content. Use your imagination and I’m sure you could come up with additional ways creators could use Darkblock and their NFTs, unlockable content, subscriptions, content rental, our Unity plug-in, microtransactions, etc., to generate additional revenue streams.

At the end of the day, creators should not place the future of their income in the hands of centralized marketplaces that can change their minds on a whim. Creators need to protect themselves and diversify their business model.

Darkblock is building the infrastructure necessary to explore new revenue streams. I hope you join us on our mission to empower creators to leverage the promise of web3 and develop a new creator economy free from platform control!

Join our Discord to take part in the revolution: discord.darkblock.io